I started in 2011 and my budget was £100! It was either a secondhand DSLR or a fixed lens superzoom. How different my life could have been had I chosen the latter... I was blown away by the image quality of my 300D and kit lens.I started with DSLRs in 2009, a few months before the 7D launched. It would have been outside of my self-imposed total budget of $2500, which I set because I wasn’t sure if photography would become a serious hobby for me (clearly, it did).
Knowing from my film SLR days two decades earlier that glass was more important than body, I bought the Rebel T1i/500D but skipped the kit lens, instead getting the EF-S 17-55/2.8 and the EF 85/1.8, along with a 430EX II flash and a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and ballhead to round out the budget.
Like others above, I too later coveted the 5D (mark 2 at that point). Eventually getting a 5D3 was a dream come true - and it gave me years of good service in return. But if you'd told me at the start I'd be spending that kind of money on a camera one day, I wouldn't have believed it.